Fentanyl is an opioid that is commonly used as a pain medication. When combined with other drugs, it can work as an anesthetic. Unfortunately, fentanyl is also used as a recreational drug and is often mixed with either heroin or cocaine. It is commonly administered by injection but can also be inhaled or ingested orally. Fentanyl holds the distinction of causing the overdose that took the life of the much-beloved pop superstar, Prince in April of 2016.
Fentanyl is a culprit in the nation’s opioid crisis.
You won’t be surprised to learn that fentanyl joins such drugs as hyrdocodone and oxycodone as opioids that have led to a nationwide crisis. And Dr. Alexandru Burducea isn’t helping the epidemic to get any better. As reported by the Southern District of New York branch of the United States Department of Justice this past Monday, the Manhattan, New York-based physician was sentenced to 57 months in prison for accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for prescribing fentanyl.
Burducea pled guilty to his charges on February 14th of last year. According to the DoJ report, Burducea conspired to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute by participating in a scheme to prescribe Subsys in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from the drug’s manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics.
Subsys is a potent fentanyl-based spray.
It is known to be between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine. As the DoJ details, “the FDA approved Subsys only for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients. Prescriptions of Subsys typically cost thousands of dollars each month, and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as commercial insurers, reimbursed prescriptions written by Burducea.”
In the summer of 2012, Insys launched a “Speakers Bureau”. This involved several doctors conducting programs known as “Speaker Programs”. The objective was to educate other medical practitioners about Subsys. However, what Insys was really doing was utilizing the Speakers Bureau to encourage doctors who served as speakers to prescribe large volumes of Subsys.
Participating doctors were paid “Speaker Program fees”.
“Speakers were supposed to conduct an educational slide presentation for other health care practitioners at each Speaker Program,” informs the report, “In reality, many of the Speaker Programs were predominantly social affairs where no educational presentation about Subsys occurred. Attendance sign-in sheets for the Speaker Programs were frequently forged by adding the names and signatures of health care practitioners who had not actually been present.”
Between the approximate dates of September 2014 and June 2015, Burducea received about $68,400 in Speaker Program fees from Insys. The payments were in exchange for the doctor’s prescribing of large volumes of Subsys. Insys also went as far as hiring Burducea’s now-wife as his sales representative. She received large commissions based on the volume of Subsys that was prescribed by her assigned doctors.
Together, the couple’s efforts earned Burducea the ranking of 14th-highest prescriber of Subsys nationally in the second quarter of 2015. He had never prescribed the drug prior to September of 2014.
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